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Kenya Teachers Call On President, PM to Resolve Stalemate

General view of an empty classroom at St Mary Primary School in Nairobi, Kenya, Sept. 6, 2011, because of a teachers' national strike.
The secretary general of the Kenyan Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (KUPPET) has called on both President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Rail Odinga to help meet demands by striking teachers.

Akello Misori said the government has yet to show any commitment to resolve the stalemate over teachers’ demand for better working conditions.

His comments came after Finance Minister Robinson Githae said it will cost an extra 400 billion shillings for the government to meet the teachers’ pay raise demand.

Githae said the teachers’ demands are unrealistic, adding that agreeing to them could undermine the country’s economy.

“I don’t want to enter into a popularity contest, but I want to do what is right for the country,” Githae said. “If there is nothing in the budget there is nothing we can do. For the sake of the county, I’m prepared to be sacrificed, to be condemned and to accept abuses hurled at me.”

President Kibaki has called for a speedy resolution to the stalemate between the government and the striking teachers.

Some Kenyans have called on the teachers to return to the classrooms while negotiations continue. But Misori counters that the government is to blame for the strike.

"The government has not shown commitment in handling the teachers issue,” he said. “But you can also see that every public servant is on the street on a strike. It is an illustration that this coalition government does not show any commitment to public service employees.”

Misori said the government should speed up negotiations so the teachers can return to work. The teachers went on strike September 3 demanding better working conditions.

“The best to be done is to show commitment that they are ready to pay harmonized pay and show how structured negotiations can begin from now henceforth. There is no other alternative,” said Misori.

Some Kenyans have said they worry the government has been slow to deal with the labor dispute.

But, Misori said two ministers in the administration have made contradictory statements about finding solutions to the teachers strike.

"The minister for education is announcing that they are ready to pay [teachers], yet the minister for finance is saying there is no money to pay. How can two ministers of government have different positions, yet they are members of the same Cabinet sub-committee resolving this crisis? Misori asked.

"It means that there is no coordination in the government and therefore the two principals - the president and the prime minister - have not come out to address the issue," he added. "It is an illustration that the government wants the students of Kenya not to do exams.”

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